It’s been a big month for Australian preventative health start-up SiSU Health, which has recently introduced several major initiatives designed to maximise the effectiveness of the data gathered from nearly 200 free mobile health platforms, which have so far been accessed by more than half a million people across Australia for comprehensive health screening.

SiSU Health has recently partnered with Swinburne University to develop a series of mental wellness self-assessment tools that can be added to existing SiSU stations. The project will evaluate the impacts of health screening on online platforms and mobile health check stations and support the work of a PhD student in psychology under Professor Denny Meyer in the Swinburne School of Health Sciences.

SiSU Head of Analytics, Insights & Strategy, Patrick Hannebury, says the company has also recently launched a community education program aimed at healthy people over 70, and those over 60 with co-morbidities – both cohorts identified as being at higher risk from complications of COVID-19.

The company’s “COVID-19 check-in” campaign is running from April to September, targeting high- risk members with information and follow-up surveys.

“Our surveys have shown that older people show significantly less concern about their health and that of their families than do younger people,” says Hannebury.

He says that as restrictions are relaxed, it’s important that older and younger groups continue to engage in safe practices.

In April, the company received survey responses from over 2,300 Australian and UK residents, most of them with personal health data registered via SiSU’s free self-service digital health station which tracks blood pressure, heart rate, weight, body mass index and percentage of body fat, along with various risks such as cardiovascular and diabetes risks.

Survey respondents reported pre-existing health conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, or asthma and whether they smoked.

“Only 27.6% of people aged 75 or over were concerned about getting sick, or their family getting sick, versus an average of 55% for those aged between 16-54 years of age,” Hannebury says.

The results also showed a significant gap between the hand hygiene and social distancing measures practised by younger and older respondents, with younger people less likely to report practising social distancing and regular handwashing “every day” in the previous week, than did older people.

The company has now sent more targeted information about the risks of COVID-19 to the 130,000 people who have signed up to receive updates on their health, Hannebury says.

SiSU CEO Dr Noel Duncan reported that one recent study of 67,000 SiSU users found that around 87% of people who used the SiSU Health Station reported that they had never had their blood pressure measured before – and almost 18% of those people then went on to record high blood pressure shortly after as they were tested on the Station.

The opportunity to add clinically-evaluated mental health tools such as surveys, which users of the health stations can opt to complete, could add a new and very important dimension to the already-useful data being gathered by the company, Hannebury adds.

“Consumer-facing digital platforms like ours are able to respond quickly during a health crisis, and because people opt-in to these self service platforms, we can often reach those who don’t normally go and see a doctor,” says Hannebury.